California Jury Finds Johnson & Johnson Not Liable in Motrin Suit

July 21, 2008

Johnson & Johnson last Thursday won a lawsuit brought by the family of an 11-year-old girl who became blind after using the drug Children’s Motrin in 2003.

The painkiller is made by Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil consumer healthcare unit.

The jury voted 9-3 against liability, after a six week trial. Jurors decided that J&J had put a drug on the market known to cause sickness and illness, without warning customers, but also found that it had not been proved that Children’s Motrin caused the girl, Sabrina Johnson, to go blind.

Her family had sought almost a $1 billion in damages.

“There will be no award,” Browne Green, an attorney for the plaintiffs told reporters.

He said in a statement that the case would be appealed.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court had alleged that the company failed to label the over-the-counter pain reliever with a warning that it could lead to a rare, but potentially fatal allergic reaction with severe rash of the skin and mucous membranes.

J&J had argued that the condition, known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, could not be directly attributed to Motrin.

Ibuprofen, a widely used pain reliever, is the active ingredient in Motrin, Advil and a variety of other medicines.

The company maintained that its product was safe and that packaging materials adequately warned that a doctor should be consulted if any change of medical condition occurred after a young person was given Children’s Motrin.

The girl had testified that the undersides of her eyelids felt like sandpaper and that she spent months in a large cardboard box during daylight hours to avoid intense pain in her eyes.

Stevens-Johnson and toxic epidermal necrolysis, a related ailment, are very rare and estimates of the incidence of the conditions vary.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Deena Beasley; editing by Gunna Dickson and Carol Bishopric)

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